Land Between Stonelodge And Naishes Cottages, North Stoke
This development proposal concerns an undeveloped parcel of land, currently used for pasture, situated within the North Stoke village conservation area, Bath & Bristol Green Belt, and the Cotswolds AONB. It forms part of the open, rural setting of multiple Grade II listed 17th century buildings including Naishes Cottages, Manor House Farm, and Manor Farm. The site is closely positioned to the south-east of the remains of a Roman building and associated mosaic pavement and a Romano-British burial site slightly further north, and is hemmed to the south by the possible remains of a Roman road, highlighting the possible, undisturbed archaeological significance of the land in question. The presence of medieval earthworks to the east of the village, the remnants of a medieval barn, and evidence of medieval farming around the village periphery further emphasises the archaeological significance of the site within a settlement of consistent activity and habitation. Aside from the apparent presence of two small dwellings on the northernmost boundary of the site as shown in the 1840s tithe maps of Bath, the land has remained a significant open green space within the conservation area with no post-19th century architectural intervention, allowing for views in and out of the village whilst strongly contributing to the verdant, insular character of North Stoke.
BPT objects in principle to the development of the site, and infill of this significant open space, which it is felt would neither preserve nor enhance the character of the conservation area, would constitute harm to the setting multiple Grade II listed buildings including Manor Farm and Naishes Cottages, would constitute inappropriate development within the Green Belt without demonstration of “very special circumstances” (NPPF, 2019), and would harm the distinctive rural character of the AONB. We additionally feel that the lack of a thorough archaeological assessment and investigation of the site prior to the submission of a planning application is unacceptable when considering the site’s exceptional historic context.
Character of the Conservation Area and Listed Buildings:
The North Stoke village conservation area can be characterised as a low density settlement of distinct, retained rural character in which open green spaces with some pastoral function form a significant part of the central streetscape to both the north and south. Consequently, these green sites act as fingers of undeveloped countryside that visually connect the centre of the village with its bucolic setting, and strongly reflect the village’s original, and ongoing, agricultural function. The extant coursed rubble stone boundary wall along the northern periphery of the development site contributes to the village’s use of rural vernacular within its boundary treatments.
Therefore, the proposed development would neither preserve nor enhance the openness or rural qualities of the conservation area, and would instead act as a barrier between the village’s main street and its open countryside setting. The insertion of a dwelling on the site would disturb the contribution of the site’s undeveloped, verdant appearance to the rural character of the village conservation area, and may establish an unwelcome precedent for the infill development of sites within the village despite their significance in contributing to the setting of the conservation area’s built heritage and historic plan form.
Furthermore, the proposed development and the change from open setting to built development would directly harm the rural, open setting of numerous Grade II listed buildings such as Naish’s Cottages directly next to the site, and Manor Farm adjacent, with the parcel land remaining within Manor Farm’s historic agricultural estate under the same owner.
In particular, Manor Farm is suitably framed by its agrarian context, and it remains the most prominent building within the village core.
This development would consequently clash with the visual and spatial significance of a listed building due to its size, position, and distinctly contemporary appearance in its use of timber cladding. Furthermore, the proposed dwelling’s right-angled position, pushed back from the road, is at odds from the typical orientation of North Stoke’s building stock where the primary elevation is orientated towards the road.
We are additionally concerned that the development might over dominate Naish’s Cottages with regards to its height and massing. We are disappointed that no streetscape montages or views have been submitted as part of the application to assess how the proposed dwelling would sit alongside a Grade II listed terrace of buildings.
This application is therefore contrary to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, section 16 of the NPPF, and policies CP6, D1, D2, D3, D5, D7, and HE1 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan.
Landscape Setting of Green Belt/AONB:
The Trust strongly objects to the principle of development on undeveloped land within the Green Belt that serves as a natural, visual buffer around the village of North Stoke in line with paragraph 134 of the NPPF. In accordance with Section 13 of the NPPF, “a local planning authority should regard the construction of new buildings as inappropriate in the Green Belt”, unless in very special circumstances in which the harm of development is significantly outweighed by other considerations. Whilst the proposed development might be argued to fall under the category of “limited infilling in villages”, we feel that the proposed scale of development on an undeveloped, pastoral land would cause significant harm to the openness and rural visual amenity of the Green Belt, and its contribution to the setting of a conservation area, without being demonstratively outweighed or mitigated by any benefits.
Furthermore, the village’s dominant presentation of vernacular architectural form and texture is representative of the small, rural settlements which contribute to the harmonious scenic and natural beauty of the Cotswolds AONB. It is noted within section 2.9 of the Cotswolds Landscape Character Assessment that developmental pressures, both within and along the edges of villages, “can adversely affect the historic form of the villages and mask the direct relationship with geology, landform and land use”, with the gradual suburbanisation within dwelling curtilages resulting in “a significant impact on how a landscape is perceived.” Therefore, this development would directly harm North Stoke’s contribution of traditional appearance and character to the AONB through the infill of a significant green space along the main street which retains a visual connection between North Stoke and its AONB/Green Belt setting, and the overt suburbanisation of the village’s rural core through the insertion of a significant volume of hard surfacing, and the removal of a large portion of traditional stone walling for a tarmac visibility splay, as well as the associated residential boundary treatment of the rest of the site.
This application would therefore significantly harm the openness and rural character of the Green Belt, and would be of detriment to the village’s traditional contribution to the harmonious built and natural landscape of the AONB, without demonstration of suitable special circumstances or benefits.
This application is consequently contrary to sections 13 and 15 of the NPPF, and policies DW1, B1, B4, CP8, GB1, NE2, and NE2a of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan.
Archaeological Significance of the Site:
In accordance with paragraph 189 of the NPPF, where a site for development is of speculated archaeological interest, the developer is required by the LPA to submit “an appropriate desk-based assessment and, where necessary, a field evaluation” to update the historic environment record. We are therefore surprised at the lack of relevant documentation submitted as part of this application when considering the medium density of significant archaeological remains, Roman and medieval, which characterises the village core of North Stoke. In particular, the absence of evidence of any material development on the site after the 1840s, with the dwellings present in the mid-19th century occupying only a small sliver of land along the roadside boundary, signifies the potential for any archaeological deposits to be exceptionally well-preserved and of heightened evidential value.
Therefore it is necessary that an Environmental Impact Assessment, or evidence of consultation with the LPA's archaeologist, is submitted before this application is permitted to progress further. The Trust would additionally highlight that this application should not have been validated for consideration by the LPA before adequate documentation was provided for assessment.
This development would neither preserve nor enhance the distinctive, rural character or appearance of the North Stoke conservation area, would directly harm the open setting of multiple Grade II listed buildings and the openness and rural setting of the Green Belt/AONB, and would cut off the village core from its landscape setting. We additionally feel that there has not been suitable investigation into the archaeological value of the site considering the density of Roman and medieval deposits within and around the village. This application is therefore contrary to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, sections 13, 15, and 16 of the NPPF, and policies DW1, B1, B4, CP8, GB1, CP6, D1, D2, D3, D5, D7, HE1, NE2, and NE2a of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, and should consequently be refused.